Navigating a Moratorium of Identities: An Autoethnography Analyzing Cultural Capital in the Mathematics Classroom
Mathematics teacher identity has emerged as a topic of discussion amongst contemporary researchers in the effort to enlighten, impact, and reform professional practice. There has been little examination, from a personal point-of-view, of how competent mathematics teachers are and how they may use a combination of educational resources, skills, intellect, and practice to gain classroom success. The purpose of this dissertation was to take a critical look at my identities as an African American, female mathematics teacher and investigate what drives me to possess high expectations, motivate learning and foster positive learning environments, support parents, and encourage peers to illuminate success in the classroom. The research questions guiding this dissertation were: 1) How do I, a female African American mathematics educator, use autoethnography as a reflexive process to investigate cultural capital? 2) How do these factors contribute to my evolving identity? As the researcher and subject of this qualitative body of work, identity was investigated using autoethnography as a research methodology that functioned as an approach to research and writing that sought to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience. This dissertation uses the tenets of cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1986; Yosso, 2005) as a framework, along with intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1989; Collins, 2000; Banks, 2009) as a critical lens through which to understand the multiple identities that are central to this dissertation. I utilized personal narrative through storytelling as the chief method of data collection. I also utilized external data sources like the literature review, conversations, documents, journals entries and dialogue to inform my search of self. The results indicated that I am directly affected by the cultural capital that I employ to navigate educational spaces. The findings from this research revealed four major themes that contributed to how being reflexive through autoethnography helped to investigate cultural capital: a) teacher empowerment vs. authority, b) teacher identity as cultural capital, c) teacher resiliency, and d) teaching for social justice. A major implication in the research is that the transformative nature of autoethnography allows opportunities to scrutinize and critique teacher interactions that are important to educator growth.